April 19, 2012

Cactus Salsa

I think we forget a lot about the food that is already around us to begin with. To eat locally is a sort of a dual concept. There’s an idea about how far food travels to reach your plate. Then there is this other idea, one we think of less, of eating something that is native and indigenous to the area that you live in. It doesn’t get any more local than that.

Arizona doesn’t grow much without a little help. The things that it does grow, however, are extraordinary. Here are plants that can survive 120 degree days, months without rain, unrelenting sun, and still produce something that can sustain you. Tepary beans, agave, and, of course, the ubiquitous cactus.

The prickly pear cactus in particular is a hallmark of the desert landscape. And not just my desert, but deserts all over the world. They are known here as nopales, in Israel as tzabar, in Egypt as teen shouky, and in various places as some play on a ‘thorned fig’. Which is about right, because inside the paddle of the prickly pear is a juicy, sticky, and sweet flesh that’s maybe just a little bit sour. It makes your mouth water. It tastes like the color green and spring. It’s totally a fig. And we’re going to make salsa with it.

So here you go, a spring salsa for your taste buds. Maybe made with something you can procure just outside your door (if you live somewhere with cacti). If not, I have seen nopales in upscale super markets, farmers markets, and Whole Foods.

First, can we just talk about how beautiful these tomatoes are?

Did they come out of a fairytale? How cheesy is that? But seriously, looks like something Cinderella would make a carriage out of.

Salsa’s a cinch to make. I’m sure you already know that.

The only twist with this salsa are these diced and fried nopales. So easy.

Cactus tends to be slimy the way okra is slimy, but don’t let that worry you. Your salsa won’t come out slimy.

This salsa is mild, but flavorful. You can amp up the heat with a jalapeno. I wanted that green cactus taste to come through, so I kept it mild. It’s okay to eat your salsa on the mild side sometimes. It gives your taste buds a break!

And you’re done! You should probably put on your cowboy boots and a sun dress and go for a walk now. See if there’s anything else you can eat that’s right outside your door. You’ll be surprised.

Ingredients:

3 med-large tomatoes or equivalent in small tomatoes

1 nopal

1/2 yellow onion

1 anaheim pepper

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup cilantro

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

pepper

Instructions:

Take any spines off the cactus. This can be done several different ways. 1. Run the cactus over a hot flame, removing the smaller spines and some of the larger. Then, flatten the cactus and use a knife to skim over the cactus slicing off any remaining spines. 2. Use your hand to hold the cactus flush to a cutting board, making the top surface relatively flat. Take a knife and slowly push it across the cactus, removing the spines. 3. Dig out each spine with small knife or melon baller.

Put the pepper, garlic, and for a richer flavor, tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil them for 10 minutes. It might take a little bit longer for the tomato to develop a slightly charred outer layer.

Dice the nopal, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and pepper. Preheat a saute pan or skillet until it is hot. Put in 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and throw in the diced nopal. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.

Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

 

Cactus Salsa
Recipe type: appetizer
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
the added addition of prickly pear cactus makes this salsa bright and flavorful.
Ingredients
  • 3 med-large tomatoes or equivalent in small tomatoes
  • 1 nopal
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 anaheim pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Take any spines off the cactus. This can be done several different ways. 1. Run the cactus over a hot flame, removing the smaller spines and some of the larger. Then, flatten the cactus and use a knife to skim over the cactus slicing off any remaining spines.
  2. Use your hand to hold the cactus flush to a cutting board, making the top surface relatively flat. Take a knife and slowly push it across the cactus, removing the spines.
  3. Dig out each spine with small knife or melon baller.
  4. Put the pepper, garlic, and for a richer flavor, tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil them for 10 minutes. It might take a little bit longer for the tomato to develop a slightly charred outer layer.
  5. Dice the nopal, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and pepper. I would leave the seeds with the pepper for some mild heat.
  6. Preheat a saute pan or skillet until it is hot. Put in ½ tbsp of olive oil and throw in the diced nopal.
  7. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
  8. Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you've reached your desired consistency.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

michael mcnally April 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I’m going to spend tomorrow rounding up ingredients and Saturday Devin and I do the chef routiine! That does look amazing ..

Reply

Alexia April 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I WISH I WAS SITTING IN YOUR KITCHEN EATING THIS WITH YOU. DEEEELISH.

Reply

Kaitlin @TheGardenGrazer April 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm

WOW does this salsa look incredible! So happy I found your site from Healthy Aperture :) I love the unique look to it, not to mention your gorgeous pics! My husband and I just spent a year living in Tempe – LOVE Arizona :)

Reply

Scott May 1, 2012 at 3:58 am

Kate, this looks amazing! I tried nopales years ago as I kept seeing cactus leaves in the produce section and was intrigued. I found their taste somewhat like a cross between cucumbers and broccoli. In a salsa? WOW…great idea! I definitely need to try this.

Great job on your site. It’s fantastic and you’re obviously doing something here that you love. All the best to you!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe:  

Previous post:

Next post: